Is Violence teh Awesome?

by: Matt Stoller

Mon May 12, 2008 at 14:25

My Blackeye

So on Saturday, I got smacked in the face.  I've been snacking on Advil for a few days, musing on violence and its somewhat surprising (to me, anyway) impact.  A month and a half ago, a women across the hall from my apartment threw herself out the window, and a few days ago some very angry dude decided that my face needed a redesign.

Unprovoked violence is evil.  I've had headaches, my neck hurts, I'm spitting a bit of blood, and I think I'm going to have to get checked out by an ear, nose, and throat person.  My family is freaked out and upset.  More than that, I've been jumpy, looking over my shoulder and generally just worried about sudden movements.  Violence messes your head up and dehumanizes everyone involved.  And this wasn't very bad, it's just one sucker punch to the face.  Lots of people get it much worse every day, and start in much worse condition with limited family support.

The psychological impact of violence was pretty unexpected.  It makes me less trusting, more prone to withdraw, full of rage, and more suspicious.

I do not understand why pacifism and/or the avoidance of war are sneered at.

Matt Stoller :: Is Violence teh Awesome?

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why (0.00 / 0)
why did the person punch you in the face?

I think you just answered your own question (0.00 / 0)
people dont want to get hit again.

Anyway, what happen?!! Damn! That sucks! Whew, take a week off, go to a beach or something.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

sorry that you got punched in the face (4.00 / 3)
I got robbed last summer, twice.  Right before YearlyKos and right after, in fact.

It messed with my head a lot.  Made me suspicious, made me worry about leaving the house.  I started worrying whether I'd locked the doors or the windows.  I stopped opening my windows, in fact.

But, it faded with time.

It always does.  I've known people who have been mugged.  Made them nervous for a while, but eventually things went back to normal.

Make sure there's no permanent damage, and just give it time.  And, you'll always have a story to tell.  

Wow, Matt--Sorry To Hear That (4.00 / 1)
It's been quite a while since I've experienced physical violence, and this shocking rerport just reminds me of how fortunate I am, in yet another way.

Hope you get all the support you need.

I used to get beat up by bullies regularly for a period of time growing up--till I made a couple of rather large friends--but in my adult life I've been pretty fortunate.  More threats than actual violence, and not much of either in a long time, so far as I can recall.

Pretty brave of you to post about it like this.  I really appreciate that.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Been beaten up twice. (0.00 / 0)
I blamed myself, at least partly. A form of blame the victim, of course. What was I doing where I was when I was there. Why did I ignore the warning signs?

After the first attack I made sure to pay attention to and acknowledge the long term residents of new neighborhoods. Most are going to be potential allies and the potential adversaries are more likely to respect me rather than attack me.

But still you never know. I hope you have no permanent injury. Me, I'm lucky, I only still have a slightly chipped tooth.

Jeff Wegerson

Sorry (0.00 / 0)
Sorry to hear about it, Matt. I've been lucky enough not to have been subjected to violence since high school.

I was robbed at gunpoint during grad school, and that affected me psychologically but at least I wasn't physically hurt.

I hope you heal (physically and psychologically) quickly.

sorry to hear about it (0.00 / 0)
wow, that really stinks. years ago I had my purse snatched, didn't even get hurt, just robbed. I was angry for weeks. It really really stinks.

so yeah, mebbe people should look at non-violence.  

Take It Easy (4.00 / 2)
One night after walking home through a nice Oakland neighborhood from a late night of work, someone told me to stop right there.  I looked up and saw a station wagon with its lights shining in my face and two -- they looked about 14 -- kids standing on either side of me brandishing jack handles.  The adult in the car told me to drop my wallet and book and walk away.  I did.  I got home and an hour later a jogger called to say he'd found my wallet. They got a grand total of ten dollars from me.

For a couple of weeks I had pretty sick revenge fantasies and for a couple of months when walking through the same neighborhood (I lived there) I would grow unreasonably fearful of a car driving behind me.  Sometimes I would take off into back yards in my suit (a work uniform back in those days).

I realize now that I had a mild form of PTSD.  You'll get over the trauma, but it will take time.

Kinda gives us a small understanding of what it must be like for the people who come back from Iraq, to say nothing of the Iraqis themselves.

Sorry, Matt... (0.00 / 0)
that totally sucks.

The face will mend soon, and seems as though you've got a great forum here for working through the other issues.

The relationship between violence in an individual and how violence is viewed in a society as a whole is worth looking at deeply, but one thing is pretty clear: our culture here in the USA can glorify violence like few others.

About 40 years ago H Rap Brown said "Violence is as American as apple pie". In some ways that statement is both less and more true today.

Anyway, feel better.    

Sorry to hear that Matt (0.00 / 0)
Beware the mean streets of DC.

The Seminal :: Independent Media and Politics

Try this (0.00 / 0)
Angelic Music by Iasos will help you focus on higher things than pain and fear.:

It's available via Yahoo Music, if you happen to subscribe.

Pax Vobiscum

435 Dem Primaries 2012
Coffee Party Usa

It's the SUCKER PUNCH the makes it bad (4.00 / 1)
My brother in law was returning from his car in manhatten when, for no reason and with out warning he was sucker punched. I'm a Vietnam vet and have seen a lot of violence and inflicted a lot of it too. Now you would think I wouldn't be shocked at what happened to my brother In law, your wrong. When your in a war you are psyched for violence. But a sucker punch is the kind of violence that does more Mental damage than physical harm. But alas this to will pass but you like every victim will never forget. Peace and wellness be with you.

Encouraged by your last sentence (0.00 / 0)
You deserve praise for not giving in to the fear by arming yourself.

Like many respondents here, its been quite a while since I've been punched, or beaten.  In high school, I used to bribe the hall monitors so that I could go to the gas station on the corner to pee, because the bathrooms were a hell-hole for a geek like myself.  Eventually, though, I met one of the head thugs in detention hall and I agreed to help him and his buddies cheat on exams in exchange for urination rights.  Brains over brawn, eh?  

As an adult, the only fights I've been involved in were when I was trying to break one up.  I used to host an Open-Mic and those drunken artists can get pretty testy.  Otherwise - its the odd piece of trash, or beer can tossed at us during street protests.  Never been mugged.

Stay strong.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

That sucks man (0.00 / 0)
In high school I was jumped on my home, and it was an awfully scarring experience. It wasn't too bad physically except for a badly scraped knee, but it took me longer than I had expected to even feel at home in my own neighborhood.

I hope you recover quickly, both physically and otherwise.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

i got jumped on election night 2004 (0.00 / 0)
for a long time i still felt unsafe walking alone at night, but it finally went away.

sorry this had to happen to you.

end the blurring--vote steve novick for u.s. senate in oregon

holy crap (0.00 / 0)
That's awful/crazy Matt. But we warned you not to engage in comment threads at MyDD- there's just no way it could turn out ok!

Kidding aside, I hope your recovery is quick (more specifically so for the psychological end of it).  

Go, don't think about going to an M.D. (0.00 / 0)
Go go go!

Sorry about the incident, Matt.   Please get it checked out.

Been there, it is no fun and it does take a while until the event subsides.   Good luck.

Do bloggers have health insurance? (0.00 / 0)
Well, I hope so... and I agree it can never hurt to go to the doctor.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
Sorry to hear this (4.00 / 1)
But Matt - it's your eye - please see an eye is too important and you need to get any damage assessed.

And to add to the son was robbed at gunpoint when we lived in D.C. and I [the mommy] still have occasional bad dreams about it along the what-if scenarios.  Also- it's been 13 years and I no longer even live near D.C. : - ) so bad thoughts [ptsd] stick

Lynn [the used-to-be-d.c.-psychologist]

Because they're impossible. (0.00 / 0)
All of those psychological symptoms are normal--healthy even--when what happens to you happened.  But you have to look on the positive side -- how often does that happen to you? People all over the world are subject to violence all the time.

The reason pacifism is sneered at is because there are always going to be those who are damaged enough, angry enough, or in enough pain to subject other to violence, and there may be no other way to stop them--that and the fact that not everyone is willing to be a martyr to the violent.

Even for me--I'm essentially an optimist, and I believe that virtually everyone has the capacity to behave morally--I think there will always be people like that out there.

The trick is not becoming one of the in the process, and that's exactly what America has done--reaching its peak with 9/11--is to continue to increase its victim mentality as an excuse to continue a cycle of violence.

When you're in that situation, it's hard not to sympathize.  But, you see, that's what LEADERS are for.  The people who cheered us into Iraq weren't leading, they were allowing base emotions to rule us instead.

Where? (0.00 / 0)
Matt, sorry to hear. Where was this? I know you're in Philly (I think...), and I'd like to know. Just moved here recently, and have felt pretty safe in CC. Scary stuff!

Answer own question (4.00 / 1)
I do not understand why pacifism and/or the avoidance of war are sneered at.

The psychological impact of violence was pretty unexpected.  It makes me less trusting, more prone to withdraw, full of rage, and more suspicious.

People don't trust violence can go away so they fall back on the alternative; fight back and protect yourself.

They don't realize it isn't about replacing violence with "peace".  It is about replacing violent reaction with law and institutional reaction.

Its not only that. Humans have been warring for millenia. Survival of the fittest insures that many in our population have war/violence embedded in their DNA. n/t (0.00 / 0)

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
Survival of "fittest" is spin (0.00 / 0)
Especially when one conflates "warring" with "fittest"

At most, you have have identified ONE attribute that MAY allow one human animal to dominate another.  In no way has your analysis captured the full essence of Darwin, or natural selection.  

I might suggest that your post is the product of projection. But, maybe its just an inadvertent and uncontrollable jerk in your knee, even a Pavlovian response.  I don't know.  Don't really care.

Point is - Fitness for survival has many more definitions than  those confined to physical prowess and the ability to physical dominate others. I ain't saying that the Military Mindset and the Dogma of Domination don't quite often have their way with the world, and even particular human beings with names we can read about right here on this site (or a just a click away).

So, please, "big man", spare me the machismo schtick (sp?), I've heard it before. As I've posted above, I have experience that says my brain can make you sell-out your brawn; or at least waste it by beating up other human beings.

As Neal Young sings: "Throw your weapons down!"

Let's be clear about survival - hiding works like a charm - so does cooperation and symbiosis.

Now - I'm relatively certain that you didn't actually mean the full intent that I've read into your words - but, maybe you do.  WTFDIK. So, please realize that I'm just using you as a springboard, so to speak.  

Better than being a target, eh?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
why is pacifism sneered at? (4.00 / 1)
because people stopped trying to kick my ass when I stood up for myself and finished a fight. That was back in junior school.

I'm not saying that the avoidance of war isn't good policy. But do you think anybody would have tried to sucker punch you if you were 6'4" and thick as a football player? Peace requires a combination of strength and intelligence.

btw, not to be unsympathetic... (4.00 / 1)
there's nothing forgivable about a sucker punch, and a beating can really mess with you mentally. that's in addition to whatever medical problems it causes. i remember when my house got robbed, i was pissed about what got stolen, but even more of an effect was how it made me feel about my security and my privacy. i became much more paranoid for a while after that.

go see a doctor and try to take it easy. and hang out with folks who love you.

[ Parent ]
You shouldn't let the fact the something rare happened to you obscure your view of the reality or actual statistics. (0.00 / 0)
Look at probability instead. Just because you've been robbed before, doesn't make you any more likely to be robbed again. Your odds remain the same as everyone else, very slim. Unless there is something about your behavior that increases your probability.  

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
yeah exactly. it's in your head. (0.00 / 0)
this was years ago. i think it was only maybe 2 years later that i felt normal about my home again. it just messes with you. you feel violated. i imagine that's what it's like to be sucker punched, to be randomly attacked for no reason. you probably look over your shoulder for quite a while after that.

[ Parent ]
actually the big dudes get way MORE people trying to pick fights (0.00 / 0)
I've had a few muscle builder type guys in my life, and they constantly talk about how every time that they go into a bar, a million idiots with Napoleon complexes are constantly going up to them and trying to pick a fight, while the last time I had that tried on me was when I was the skinny effeminate boy in junior high.

[ Parent ]
Im sorry that happened Matt, you didnt deserve it, you dont now. (4.00 / 2)
Its hard with the internet to provide support equal to the impact of a fist, emotionally. But consider yourself hugged dude. Held with real feeling. Get more hugs from people made of meat, take comfort when its offered and dont succumb to anger.

If you can press charges hopwever that would fine, or any other method for him to get the consequences of his actions.

We feel for ya bro.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

Speedy healing to you (0.00 / 0)
Take some time for yourself, Matt. Hang in there.

"And life is grand And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor With those of you Who have appointed yourselves To expect us To say something darker." -- Camper Van Beethoven

Rough neighborhood, Matt. (0.00 / 0)
Time to enroll in a Tae Kwon Do class to learn how to return that sucker punch with a Tornado kick.

DIY pacifism (0.00 / 0)
You can learn how to de-escalate a situation faster than you can learn how to fight.

Young Scotty Jenkins, so big and able
Saw his fair colleen stretched by the wall
Tore the left leg from under the table
And smashed all the dishes at Flannigan's Ball


[ Parent ]
I moved (4.00 / 1)
I was robbed by about 10 kids, most around 12 or 13 though some were younger. This happened outside my apartment and as a result I moved out of town (New Haven) as soon as I could.

I was a dumbass though, and didn't give them my wallet when the biggest kid asked for it... and the neighbors I saw ran away leaving me out on the street. I took a few punches to the head, and had a concussion as a result. Looking back I was really lucky they didn't have a knife or gun. As a result of the incident, like others, I would have anxiety issues walking around, and it also amplified regular work stress though it's gotten better over time.

I saw one of the Virginia Tech suvivors on CNN, and she was exhibiting some PTSD symptoms as well. She did say she was going to participate in an unsanctioned (by the VT administration) anti-gun protest - good for her.

Anyway the take home message: if you ever get robbed, give them the money!!!  

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-Lawrence Summers

Seriously (0.00 / 0)
What kind of douche bag sucker punches a guy?

Hope you feel better.

My condolences, Matt... (0.00 / 0)
Seriously, also go to a specialist with experience in therapy for whiplash from car accidents.  The potential damage to your neck and spine from a serious punch to the face is not something to find out about the hard way many days down the road.

How you deal with violence is very much a matter of personal perspective.  I was raised in a tough neighborhood in the 1970s and had a fight record as large as my achievements record, and the latter wasn't shabby.  But when crack came to my town, it turned my neighborhood into something completely unrecognizable to me.

Unprovoked Violence (0.00 / 0)
Dealing with the fear is the most challenging aspect. You need to press charges in order to get the legal process started and get closure on the incident. Good luck in your recovery and keep us posted on your progress.  

Holy cow! (0.00 / 0)
That looks very painful.  Please don't let senseless violence turn you into a right winger.  And see a doctor if you can possibly afford it, for peace of mind if nothing else -- but you'll probably get good pain meds, too.  

Join the conversation at Left In Alabama.

Sorry that happened. That wound will heal good as new. (0.00 / 0)
I've had a lot of experience with violence. Been beat up, shot at, and done the same to others. I have scars on my body that will never heal. I'm pretty sure your eye will heal fine.

I'm sorry you got sucker punched. In my experience, I've never seen anyone hit for no reason, so I imagine you and that person must have had some kind of confrontation or something. If it was truly unprovoked, that is very rare and I'm very sorry. I hope this doesn't frighten other people because unprovoked violence (especially male-on-male) is very rare. I understand this type of thing works different in the NE and South, but where I'm from (the south), even violent people don't assault for no reason. Everythign is about pride and ego down here and if you damage someone in that way expect a physical confrontation not a battle or wits or argument.

Some people thrive on violence. I have severe adhd and I am hyper aware of my surroundings. Sometimes I feel I am at my best in dangerous situations and I almost always see them coming. I'm not claiming to be Mr. Badass, I have lost many fights. Now I carry a gun (legally) everywhere I go. But one thing I've learned is that those type of predators are also people who have low self esteem and even doubt themselves. If you stand up to them, they will back down. A teenage kid recently tried to mug and carjack at me gunpoint at a stop light. I simply told him "NO" I will not give you any money or my car. He was astounded, but even he knew it wasn't worth shooting me over a crappy Nissan. I even had a gun on me at the time but I didn't pull it out cause he was a young kid and a) I didn't want to shoot him b) I didn't want to frighten him into maybe shooting me. Unfortunately once I took the keys back out of his hand and we drove away one of his accomplices shot a whole in my rear passenger window aiming for the drive (my buddy) but missed. Only at that point did I start shooting back but I intentionally missed them.

Most of these "thugs" aren't as tough as they want you to believe and their worst fear is that somebody will recognize them for what they really are and not be affraid. A lot of times it helps to stand up to them. I'm not sure of the details of your situation but if it was totally unprovoked then that type of assault is extremely rare and it doesn't serve society well to spread that kind of fear. The same reason I tell women not to watch local news, they will think there are rapist hiding around every corner.

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

get well Matt (0.00 / 0)
I know I still find myself reaching for my bike U-Lock on occasion, and I haven't been hit in years.  And I know that it  is better for the world for me to just take whatever might be coming to me rather than retaliating with a 5 pound chunk of steel.  But it's tough man, dealing with the fear.  The randomness definitely makes it worse, though.


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